Rhi Hepple describes how she went from being so ill with an autoimmune disorder that a specialist said nothing further could be done and she just had to learn to live with her symptoms, to living a full, symptom-free, happy life of fulfilment and positivity. She tells how naturopathic nutrition turned her health and whole life around, and started her on a path of wanting to help others – a job she now loves
Why do I love my job? I think ultimately I’m so grateful for the life naturopathic nutrition has given back to me that it’s a blessing to be able to pass on that gift to others. Naturopathic nutrition gave me a promise of feeling healthy again. It came into my life when I was at my lowest, when I thought my health was just going to deteriorate and I had no hope of fulfilling some of my hopes and dreams.
When your health becomes out of balance in many cases it doesn’t usually happen overnight. And that’s what happened for me. One of the questions I was taught to ask during my training as a naturopathic nutritionist was ‘when was the last time you felt truly well?’ This can sometimes be a bit of a lightbulb moment. For me it was after the birth of my second son. But my son was five by the time I actually went to see a naturopathic nutritionist!
In that time my health had got progressively worse, the number of medications I was on had increased and I was feeling more and more despondent. You can easily get used to feeling the way you do and the worry is that feelings of ill health become normal. Now I feel very passionate about encouraging my clients not to give up on the hope of feeling well again. Or to put up with symptoms or issues because that’s just the way it is.
I find it never is just one thing that is the cause. Your body is an amazing resilient machine that seeks to find homeostasis (balance) and will continuously look to utilise what it has to bring the body into a state of balance and to heal. But you have to give it everything it needs to do that. And if you don’t have everything then those scales tip and at some point break.
Listen to the warning signs!
For me I think it was a number of factors that continued to sabotage my ability to self-heal. It wasn’t until my symptoms were screaming at me that I actually had to listen, but the warning signs had been there years before. I was just too busy to listen – and becoming a mum had totally shifted my priorities. But something I have learnt is that if I don’t take care of myself and my health then I won’t be well enough to take care of others.
So it wasn’t until all my imbalances had taken a toll on my body that my immune system kicked in and it basically started attacking itself. This is an autoimmune reaction, which can present itself in so many ways but it’s a sign of the immune system being so stressed that it becomes hyper-sensitive and attacks healthy cells, not just unwelcome invaders.
By this time I had high inflammation in my blood, large painful swellings on my legs and lymph glands, which would then leave me with large bruises which would takes weeks to ease. In the meantime more swellings would appear. Sometimes wearing jeans was impossible as the thickness and weight of the fabric would be agony. I felt as if I had continuous flu, without the cold symptoms but with aches and pains all over my body. My skin was painful and sensitive to touch. I felt cold to the bone. I was fatigued, depressed and I felt very alone. I would get painful ulcers in my mouth and my groin which would take weeks to heal and then more would come. I slept badly, I felt bad, and lacked vitality, motivation and joy.
Some days it was too painful to walk, so I crawled round the house, or took painkillers just to get through the school run. I was on a concoction of steroids, painkillers, sleeping pills, omeprazole to protect my stomach lining from the steroids, alendronic acid to prevent osteoporosis (steroids can prevent calcium absorption), and I was constipated as a side effect from the medication. I was still experiencing symptoms, my inflammatory markers were still high and I had started to feel despondent, numb and depressed. I could put on a brave face but I wasn’t truly happy.
Just coping isn’t good enough
One of the hardest things with some illnesses, including autoimmune and depression, is that perhaps on the outside you look well. You cope through the day, manage to get up in the morning, get the kids to school, feed the family, be sociable – but perhaps you do all those things in pain, exhausted, screaming inside that this is hard. Then you feel very guilty about finding simple things hard. I was so annoyed at myself that I couldn’t quite manage these simple things well, let alone do all these things and be bouncing around with enthusiasm, doing exercise, being inspired and motivated and interactive. I tried to hide a lot of it from those around me. In some ways it wasn’t until I started to work through the stages of healing with naturopathic nutrition that I realised how bad I really had felt and how actually coping wasn’t good enough.
My turning point was when the gastroenterologist I was assigned said that his ongoing treatment plan was pain management that I had to learn to live with the symptoms rather than him providing anything for me that would get me better.
I didn’t want to manage. I wanted to heal. And that’s when I thought that if modern medical pathways can’t help me I needed to find someone who could help and I need to change what I was doing as there had to be something I was doing that was making things worse.
And that’s when I went to see a naturopathic nutritionist.
The road to health with naturopathic nutrition
When you start to work on the naturopathic path to wellness you always start at the beginning. And you peel back those layers to see what the foundation is really like. You look at the person as a physical, emotional and mental being and see how you can bring balance to each little aspect to fuel healing and vital energy and spirit.
For me my foundation was chronic dehydration (a constant tea drinker who never really drank water), being acidic (due to stress), chronic mineral deficiencies, and consumption of too many acidic foods (I wasn’t a huge fan of vegetables, was eating a lot of pasta and dairy and I later found out I was intolerant to gluten and dairy, so these were aggravating my digestive system). Sugar was pretty high in my diet as I was reaching for a stimulant because I was fatigued. My digestion was sluggish because I wasn’t digesting gluten well, lacked fibre, and because of antibiotic use I did not have good gut flora. I had had two children, long labours, untreated anaemia and B12 deficiency, and my second child did not sleep through the night until he was about five years old.
So my foundation was pretty depleted. Throw in a tendency to be a giver, a nurturer and carer for others, a lack of self-care, a tendency to internalise stress, self-sabotage, being hyper-sensitive to other people’s emotions and unrealistic feelings of guilt, I can see how I had manifested a space to start attacking myself when things weren’t feeling right. A common pattern with people who suffer with autoimmune conditions.
Journey to self-healing
As humans we are pretty complex in how we function, think, feel and do and we are all different. One size does not fit all but what we all do is heal. You cut your arm and your body immediately starts to build a scab for protection and then triggers a response in the blood to protect the body from infection and provide nutrients to rebuild and heal. We can all do that. But only if we can provide those building blocks. And that’s not just nutrients, but time, space, energy and rest.
Sometimes clients will want a quick fix and I ask, ‘How long have you felt unwell?’ … ‘Because that is likely to be how long it will take you to feel well again.’ But that journey to healing has to start with that first step. And sometimes there will be stages when you heal one layer and then reach another layer and not feel well again, but I want to give you all the tools to know how to respond to that feeling: to know how to self-care when things start to feel bad. We can all go through times when the exterior stresses around us can impact on our heath but if you can respond to building up your foundation so you feel stronger, you can cope better.
I often say: control the things you can control as that will help during times when things feel overwhelming.
Self-care: finding that goal that really motivates you!
So what can you control? What you eat, what you drink, how you exercise, whether you give yourself enough time to sleep, rest, self-care and if you make time to do things that lift your spirit, something that brings joy to your heart, that makes you belly laugh, or soothes and comforts your soul.
So first things first. Start to reduce things that are adding to your stress. You may be experiencing stress at work, with family, with money worries, or home worries and so on: these are things you might not be able to control. But are you nourishing your body well? Are you dehydrated? It is worth testing for foods that may be aggravating the digestive system and are you having a diet high in sugar, salt, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol, drugs? Can you reduce some of these things to ease some of the stress your body is having to cope with. It’s always a yes I can. OK, you might be resistant to it. But then do you want to carry on feeling the way you do? If you don’t change anything then nothing changes. It’s that simple.
Give yourself an achievable goal, that’s not to do with food, drink, weight and so on. But to do with something you know will be emotionally satisfying. I wanted to have the energy to run, play and laugh with my boys. There was a time those things felt so difficult. I remember clearly the day that we had a day out on the beach with my boys, and they wanted me to play and chase them and there was a beautiful moment of realisation when I was chasing them, they were chasing me and we were all giggling and we collapsed in a bundle in the sand, and I didn’t feel pain when they fell on me and I had the energy and spirit to enjoy the moment and I thought, ‘Yes! This is what I want.’
It’s simple but achievable. And I was willing to work hard on eliminating things in my diet that weren’t suiting me and willing to invest in foods that nurtured me, supplements that helped to rebuild me and to put my needs and health first. Because I wanted to be a better mum. A happier mum, a happier me.
This journey of self-healing sent me on a path of studying naturopathic nutrition to initially heal myself, but I found it so transformative that I continued my study so I could qualify to become a therapist and have the ability to help others.
Vitality and purpose through naturopathic nutrition
What I love about the naturopathic side of nutrition is treating the body in a holistic way that supports the mental and emotional body as well as the physical. One of the beautiful things that I find with working with clients is not just seeing the reduction of symptoms, although that is fantastic, but the way the client starts to blossom into their true self. By unveiling some of those weights of pain and discomfort, bringing energy and vitality to their being, they start to want to experience things that they love doing.
Whether it’s a hobby, challenge or a work or life goal, an epic trip, adventure or ambition. It’s personal to them but it’s something that makes them feel really good. And that’s perfect. I want to give my clients all the tools to heal but also all the tools to feel full of vitality and living a life that fulfils them.
To find out more about how naturopathic nutrition works and how it could benefit you, click here. For a
no-obligation chat to explore your options call Rhi direct on 07747 623472. Or to book a consultation phone us on 01590 670955 or check availability here